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"Every child deserves a magic forest."



The Danville News

Robert John Andrews

September 28, 2023 


Word count:  750


Below the Penningtonville Presbyterian Church, Atglen, Pennsylvania, trickled Valley Creek, flowing into the Octorara Creek west of the village at the old mill.  There the creek picked up both volume and speed as it meandered its western way through Lancaster County, eventually flowing into the Susquehanna below the Conowingo Dam, thence onto the far ocean.  A narrow road accompanies the creek its winding way.  At the old mill you would turn left and go down a bit, then, before you come to the covered bridge, you would take the right turn toward the gun club.  Passing the locked gate to the gun club and the rusting drum used for garbage, you would enter the land of their special private paradise, called Zanzibar.  At least that is the secret name of this stretch of the creek.  I traveled back to Zanzibar while getting retrained as a mandatory reporter for suspected child abuse, as all clergy are by law.  No crumpled beer cans could be seen there nor charred logs of spent bonfires giving evidence of the drinking parties by High School kids.


After our son was born, Margaret felt a twinged miffed.  Mac required much of Mom's attention and Margaret demanded attention of her own.  She already had explored every book in her nursery anyway, so three year old Margaret and Daddy started creating their own stories.  They’d pack a picnic lunch of apple juice and sandwiches and head out toward Zanzibar.


This little girl never traveled to Zanzibar alone, for her bestest friend, a little furry fellow, orange and brown, named Gooney was kept cuddled in her arms, while her other almost as furry friend sat nearby and drove the car.  Zanzibar was a special place visited often by these special three whenever they felt the need for an adventure or just to escape from the average.  Zanzibar always was merely a horizon away, filled with magic and mystery, the dark trees waving in the wind, branches hanging thickly over the trail.  Faeries fluttered from tree to tree. Nymphs splashed, scaring monsters away, for there be monsters.  Wildflowers laughed along the bank of the stream, nestling into the tree roots.  Sometimes they would skip on the planks inside the covered bridge and yell, listening to the echo.  Every child deserves a magic forest.  


The trees, pushing out from granite outcroppings, leaned over the creek, and the chanting water glimmered when the sunlight shone through the leaves of the swaying branches.  The creek wound for miles without a house nearby.  Rarely would another car disturb their reverie.  Sometimes they'd eat in the station wagon.  Sometimes they'd follow an angler's path and, after checking for water moccasin, we'd sit on a log along the creek bank.  They'd talk about how sharks sometimes would sneak up the Chesapeake and steal their way up the Susquehanna, and sometimes they'd swim all the way up the Octorara.  Octopus too.  They’d throw rocks, startling brook trout and suckers.  They'd poke sticks in holes looking for eels.


Then one very sad morning a big yellow school bus motored to the church intersection and took the little girl away.  This little girl, with puzzled eyes, looked out from the other side of the window as the big yellow bus pulled away.  She looked back at her friend standing helplessly on the sidewalk, who now held in his arms her bestest friend, her eyes imploring:  "Why are you letting them take me away?  Why are you sending me away?"  Both furry friends wondered too.


The bus later did bring her back but that yellow bus had transformed her.  Buses do that to little girls.  She wiggled in excitement as she trotted down the steps and she gushed to her friends how much fun she had and they read they played on the swing and Marcy cried a little but then they shared all sorts of crayons and paint and all the newer bestest friends she had met.  His heart broke.  Another sacrifice to the river gods.  Other places and newer friends had intruded.  It got harder for the three of them to find the way back to Zanzibar.  The one friend she once cuddled in her arms got left by her pillow every morning, till eventually he tattered away and disappeared into a dresser drawer, where Gooney still sleeps.  Her other friend wasn't much nearby much anymore either.  Soon he too had other places he had to go.  Important places, so he pretended, like meetings and negotiating congregational conflicts


"Every child deserves a magic forest."

Thursday, September 28, 2023


"Our reliable compass."

Thursday, September 14, 2023

"Fiction's Truth"

"He just refused to open his eys."

Thursday, August 31, 2023


"Hello, karma."

Thursday, August 3, 2023

"Horns of a Dilemma"

"The older you get, the smaller the rooms get."

Thursday, August 17, 2023


"Are we here merely passengers?"

Thursday, July 20, 2023

"A Civil Remedy"

"It heats up and beaks."

Thursday, July 6, 2023


"If Jesus had a grave, he'd be rolling over."

Thursday, June 8, 2023

"Flag Day 2023"

"She was a born advocate."

Thursday, May 11, 2023


"Illegitimi non carborundum."

Thursday, June 22, 2023

"Redemption AYSO Style"

"Boorish jerks deserve to be told to shut up."

Thursday, May 25, 2023

"Call It Out"

"What makes a tree grow tall and healthy?"

Thursday, April 27, 2023

"Jury Duty"

"Should we just keep flags at half-staff always?"

Thursday, April 13, 2023

"A Teacher's Life"

"What has made you feel proud."

Thursday, March 16, 2023, 2023


"Respect my authority!"

Thursday, February 16, 2023, 2023


"Let's hope amends mend."

Thursday, January 19, 2023

"Do You Trust Me?"

"Inhumanity is impractical."

Thursday, March 30, 2023

"The Last Word"




"Ignorance indentured them to the cold coal bosses."

Thursday, February 2, 2023, 2023

"Reptiles and Mammals"

"The rabbit listened."

Thursday, March 2, 2023, 2023

"Happy Seuss Day"

"These folks, by the way, are not the other."

Thursday, January 6 2023

"Home Home"

"So it is when a pet chooses you."

Thursday, December 22, 2022

"Pets Like God"

"Since when is God a destination?"

Thursday, December 8, 2022

"A Way Out"

"Lord, help the miserable ones."

Thursday, November 24 2022

"Thoughtful Thanks"

"History judges us."

Thursday, October 27, 2022

"In Whose Image?"

"You can, if you know how to chip the ball"

Thursday, September 29, 2022

"The Best of Ages"

"The Nairobi Trio!"

Thursday, September 1, 2022


"Pennsylvania wasn't fighting South Carolina."

Thursday, August 4, 2022

"A New Confederacy"

"Ask the Lorax."

Thursday, November 10, 2022

"Walking On Broken Glass"

"Feed me!"

Thursday, October 13, 2022


"Self-adulation is no path to the joy of genuine affection"

Thursday, September 15, 2022

"Man Without A Country"

"Now we cater to our Corgi puppy, Gwendolyn Clover."

Thursday, August 18, 2022

"Home Repairs"

"The interesting question is:  Into what?"

Thursday, July 21, 2022

"Interesting Things"

"Nothing unsettles worldly power more than the golden rule."

Thursday, July 7, 2022

"Christ and Culture"

"How we recognize it always is the poorest who suffer the hardest."

Thursday, June 23 2022


"MAGA:  when duty trumps desire."

Thursday, June 9, 2022


"When mothers end up with empty arms"

Thursday, May 26, 2022

"Lest We Forget"

"They returned to discover their block gone"

Thursday, May 26, 2022

"Home Front"

"Sacrificing chickens or virgins isn't kosher."

Thursday, April 28, 2022

"National Prayer"

"Pastries began her journey toward a safe and fulfilled life."

Thursday, May 12, 2022

"Goofus and Gallant"

"How classy."

Thursday, April 14, 2022

"Blue Ribbons"

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